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Peaky Blinders: Season Three, Episode Five

“I've formulated a plan. And this is how it’s going to work.”

After the horrors of the previous episode, Peaky Blinders gives us what passes for levity among the Shelby clan. For the first half of the episode, at least.

As I’ve said before, and will definitely say again, I could watch Tommy Shelby and Alfie Solomons for hours. Days. Possibly years, especially if those years consisted of a multi-season 22-episode order for a wacky sitcom on the USA Network.

It does take us a while to get there, though. The opening montage of Tommy in the hospital, set to David Bowie’s “Lazarus” (picking up on the biblical imagery of the previous episode) was brutal: the grim lighting, the horrific head wound, and the way that Tommy was clearly linking his current pain to the trauma of being in a tunnel collapse during the war.

And then there’s the morphine. I loved the detail of Tommy continuing to use the teaspoon to measure what appear to be increasingly large quantities of opiates. It’s like a white-wine alcoholic only buying the tiny bottles to give the illusion of control and temperance. His reasons for quitting are good, too. No one wants to know what happens next in the erotic dream of Housekeeper Mary reading Leviticus. Naked.

Perhaps because of the withdrawal, Tommy spends most of this episode looking amused, bemused, and downright dazed. In his scene with Alfie, he looked like he couldn’t decide whether to fall asleep or burst out laughing. (I was rooting for the second one.) (Especially since Alfie, despite the pretense of disinterest and morbid curiosity, made it clear he was genuinely concerned about the rumors swirling around Tommy during his three-month recovery.) And, of course, since Alfie is just a mirror image of Tommy, he knows exactly what’s going on: “You’re fucking about with the Russians, isn’t you, you silly boy?”
I'm listening, Alfie. This is my serious face.

That all comes full circle when Alfie plays the jeweler to appraise the Russians’ offered payment: his mother, who is Jewish, lived in Russia under the czars, and we all know how horrible that must have been. I think it’s telling that Alfie, who does not look well, was comfortable using his cane in Tommy’s house but didn’t seem to bring it into the vault. He wasn’t giving the Russians any breathing room.

Alfie also pinned down Arthur’s current struggle: he’s “the finished article” who will “murder and maim with God on his side,” a religious man who is also a madman. The show is clearly setting up Arthur for a massive breakdown, right? He cheats on his wife but doesn’t enjoy it. He nearly brains Alfie with a cut-glass dish. And he remembers all his old sins, including when he paid for two women to get abortions.

Speaking of which: Steven Knight, the showrunner whom I don’t praise enough, does something really interesting with Michael in this episode, who has two problems. First, his girlfriend doesn’t want to marry him, but is pregnant, so she needs an abortion. He doesn’t like this idea. Second, he knows the Evil Priest from his time in foster care, and not in a good way. Steven Knight links these two issues through a scene at the end of the episode, when Polly (who thinks Michael is pouty because he’s in love) finds what looks like an engagement-ring box in Michael's desk. She opens it, and finds the bullet with the priest’s name on it. Tommy didn’t get a chance to use it and pass it on. He doesn’t tell Polly what happened, but it’s clear she guessed.

I wonder if Polly knows that she got Tommy into trouble in the previous episode, and if she would have ratted him out if she’d known the backstory. I also wonder if Polly means what she says here. Would she really destroy the company and her family if Tommy let Michael get his just revenge?

And now, let’s talk about the Russians. Here’s Tommy’s description: “All right, boys, just remember they're fucking insane. And dangerous. And drunk on stuff we've never heard of. And they're worse than us for spirits and ghosts.” He’s not wrong.

All the scenes in their house drove me a bit crazy, starting with the awkward nudity test. If the previous episode was my favorite of the season, the orgy almost made this episode my least favorite. It’s Tolstoy by way of de Sade, and while it validates just how dissipated aristocrats can be, it was also tediously tawdry. And while Tommy’s erotic/mystic asphyxiation scene was interesting, it was also more, I think, than was needed.

But I am curious about how all the pieces fit into this increasingly ornate plan that Tommy came up with while in the hospital. The boys removed the firing pins from the tanks the Russians want. So, Tommy is supporting the Soviets over the aristocracy. He doesn’t trust the aristocrats, which is the opposite of surprising, so he plans to steal the jewels that they’re pretending to pay him with. And, in a beautiful bit of symmetry, he is using his war experience of tunneling to do so.

That’s a lot of double crosses, though, with at least three wildcards: Arthur the zealous madman. Alfie Solomons, who doesn’t owe Tommy much of anything. And Michael, who is juggling a lot right now, and whose personal and professional lives the show is tying together. The phrase “one last job” came up again, and it always makes me think of retirony.

I suppose we’ll find out how well that works in the season finale.

Random Thoughts:

• Tommy and the duchess never swapped back their cars.

• Polly and her sexy painter finally hooked up.

• Ada is now officially a shareholder in Shelby, Ltd.

• I feel so, so bad for that ringer the Shelbys put into the Russian household.

• But I love that Curly was concerned about which beverages were appropriate for the social occasion of meeting a bunch of Tommy’s old war buddies. “Should I make them tea?”

Four out of four Alfie Solomons for those scenes, but only one out of four Russian orgies.

I’ll split the difference for an overall score of three out of four retironies.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)


  1. This episode made me wonder if Tommy was all there, or was he nuts. And if Pol was truly reaching the end.

    The reading-the-Bible scene made me laugh, as did the checking-for-tatts scene and the jewel scene. Just not something you see every day. :)

    The reveal with the priest does explain Michael's rage and his life decisions. Makes sense.

  2. Yes! Especially what you said about Michael. And we never quite got a strong answer on whether or not he was abused when he was briefly in prison in Season Two, also.

    The reading the Bible scene was so perfect.


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